On Wednesday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore had dinner with Patriots quarterback Cam Newton on Friday night, after a nasal swab that ultimately tested positive for COVID-19 had been collected from Newton. On Thursday, Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked whether the team knew about this before traveling to Kansas City for Monday’s game against the Chiefs.
“[A]ll the information and everything involving testing and contact and everything else, all the information that we had we processed through medical people on our end, medical people in the league, and [we] followed the protocols,” Belichick told reporters. “I feel like we did everything that we could control. I think we did everything properly with the extra plane, the extra busses, the same day travel, et cetera, et cetera. There’s multiple things we could list there. In terms of a lot of individual specific questions, I’d say all those get thrown into the general medical field.”
Asked whether the team knew about the Newton-Gilmore dinner, Belichick was equally evasive.
“We followed all the NFL protocols,” Belichick said.
While the protocols technically may have been followed, the Patriots had reason to believe that Gilmore was more likely than others to test positive, given the duration of his exposure to Newton after Newton had generated a positive test sample. Some would say Gilmore should have been held out of all activities until the incubation period expired without a positive test.
Regardless, Gilmore went to Kansas City. He flew on the plane carrying those who had close contact with Newton. He was on the field during the game. He spoke to Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes from very close proximity after the game. All the while, the team and Gilmore knew that the virus quite possibly was percolating in his body, with days of negative tests suddenly becoming positive once the incubation period ended.
Which, obviously, it did.